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German Physicists: Historic Low Arctic Ice is a “Consequence of Man-Made Global Warming with Global Consequences”

By Joe Romm  

"German Physicists: Historic Low Arctic Ice is a “Consequence of Man-Made Global Warming with Global Consequences”"

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CNN Caption:  “Melting ice is visible near Greenland’s Ilulissat glacier, one of the areas seeing the effects of global warming in the Arctic.”

University of Bremen physicists reported Saturday that Arctic sea ice reached its lowest extent measured since satellite observations began three decades ago, as we reported yesterday.  Climate Progress had previously reported on the record low volume, too (see “The Arctic death spiral continues“).

So why another story?  Well, first, it’s always worth celebrating a major US media outlet actually ascribing something happening now to global warming without any caveats.  So kudos to CNN, even if it is just their news blog.

Second, kudos to University of Bremen physicists for clearly explaining in their report — “Arctic sea ice extent small as never before” (love that translation) — why this is happening and what it means:

Alerting message from the Arctic: The extent the the Arctic sea ice has reached on Sep. 8 with 4.240 million km2 a new historic minimum….  It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global warming with global consequences. Directly, the livehood of small animals, algae, fishes and mammals like polar bears and seals is more and more reduced.

This is indeed a message from the Arctic.  But is anyone paying attention?

Climatologists and cryo-scientists are.  And they are stunned.  Wales Online reported last week that Dr. Alun Hubbard at Aberystwyth University’s Centre for Glaciology came back from the Petermann Glacier in north-west Greenland documenting stunning changes in just the past two years:

“Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless.  It was just incredible to see. This glacier is huge, 20km across, 1,000m high.  It’s like looking into the Grand Canyon full of ice and coming back two years later to find it’s full of water.”

Here are the gob-smacking before and after photos:

Before and after shots.

h/t Grist

MSNBC added to the story:

“The break-off last year is bigger than anything seen for at least 150 years,” Hubbard said.

“This region (northern Greenland) is experiencing temperatures which are abnormally warm … I think the far northwest of Greenland is seeing a kind of new regime of climate,” he added.

The Humbolt Glacier, the widest in the northern hemisphere, is also retreating, Hubbard said. He said he was not a climate scientist, but said the pattern of ice melting in the area was “a definite consequence of climate change and global warming.”

Writing in the Annals of Glaciology journal, published on Aug. 22, the researchers said Greenland’s glaciers had collectively lost 592.6 square miles of ice between 2000 and 2010.

The August 2010 “calving” event saw the creation of an ice island of 112 square miles, causing the Petermann Glacier to retreat by about 8 miles.

And for those who say this is all just natural variation, the German physicists explain  what’s really going on:

Moreover, the sea ice retreat can no more be explained with the natural variability from one year to the next, caused e.g. by weather influence. Climate models show rather, that the reduction is related to the man-made global warming which, due to the ice albedo effect, is particular pronounced in the Arctic: an ice area melted by a small temperature increase will then as open water have a much darker surface, absorb more solar radiation as before which causes an additional heating.

The time to act was a long time ago, but now is better than continuing to listen to the disinformers.

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20 Responses to German Physicists: Historic Low Arctic Ice is a “Consequence of Man-Made Global Warming with Global Consequences”

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Down to the Wire: Arctic Ice Close to Bottom (we hope..) http://climatecrocks.com/2011/09/12/down-to-the-wire-arctic-ice-close-to-bottom-we-hope/

    Great graphics from Bremen University.

  2. Buzz Belleville says:

    Be interested to see how much more of the MSM picks up on this. I’ll send a copy to Murdoch.

  3. catman306 says:

    And Arctic oil exploration and production drilling will make the melting worsen because every drop of oil spilled or otherwise released to the frozen environment will be a black stain which will attract solar radiation and melt ice, then float off to melt more ice. The cycle will be repeated many times. Because the water is so cold, natural oil eating bacteria don’t thrive. The albedo of the Arctic ice in general will darken over time until the ice is all gone and there’s just an oil slick up there.

    • Jon G says:

      Good point but not the major problem: carbon black (soot) from the diesels engines used to run equipment. The finely divided carbon black particles (soot) have an albeod (reflectively) close to 2% (compared to ice at >90%) are exhausted in the air and spread by the wind and deposit themselves thinly over large areas. Radiative transfer calculations(if you know some math go look that up)show that very tiny amounts of soot in the ice absorb the sunlight very efficiently and increase the speed of any melting. The good side is that the melt draws the soot down (drains into the ocean); the bad side is that continued human activity (diesel exhaust) causes the problem to occur every year. Same goes for ships transiting the Northwest Passage.

      • Kyle says:

        Good point Jon G. I think thai is a much larger problem than people realize. The diesel motors used in the Arctic run 24/7 because if they turn them off they will never get them restarted. This adds up to a lot of soot in a very delicate environment.

  4. cervantes says:

    I plan to watch the NBC newscast tonight to see if they bother to report on this over a channel that has a substantial audience. I’m betting no.

  5. Peter Mizla says:

    The ice will continue to decline in the next few years- probably making another huge drop around 2015 or 16.

    I will watch Brian Williams in a few minutes, waiting with baited breath for him to announce this.

    The ecological significance to the demise of ice is well known. The disappearance/ extinction of many species.

    What we do not know is what impact it will have on our weather in mid latitudes.

  6. Jon Warren Lentz says:

    the future we expected is melting now

  7. With this new information, it is even more clear that we MUST move from fossil fuels (which raise temperatures and help melt ice) to renewable energies. Help join the cause at The On Project: http://bit.ly/oTgWq0

  8. Pangolin says:

    Unfortunately these pictures lake something in them to scale them on human terms. There’s no way of telling if the fjord is a mile across or ten miles across or how thick the ice at the glacial edge was.

    People will shrug and say.. “ice melts in the summer.” They don’t get that that area used to be pure ice year round even thirty years ago.

    • Steve Bloom says:

      There is a scale provided if you look closely: Eiffel towers. I expect it’s more obvious in the full version.

  9. Paul magnus says:

    When the ice goes in 2015 that will be it for any chance of the economy recovering. Weather patterns driving extreme events will be the norm. Chaos is around the bend (you could say it’s arrived already in 2010).

    Heck, even just the accelerated rate of climate change will be enough to disrupt agriculture to the extent where societal collapse is inevitable.

    • Pangolin says:

      On the upside anybody and everybody who knows how to raise food will be in great demand. If Texas and Oklahoma were relying on their own crops to feed themselves they would be in the same position as Somalia right now. Refugees on the road and living in camps.

      It’s only the fact that we can grow surpluses elsewhere that keeps us alive when weather conditions are bad locally. With climate change the number of elsewhere places able to grow surplus crops will decline at the same time local crops are being challenged or destroyed.

  10. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Excellent presentation with pictures. Yes. Global Warming is real and the consequences are Climate change.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  11. perceptiventity says:

    Resilient subsistence agriculture instead of Star Wars future, then. Buckminster-Fuller and Carl Sagan would be sadly dissapointed and, prbably, wouldn’t be much surprised. Time to get prepared for a radical regime change after that heat signal from open water penetrates inland.
    Anyone knows of a book title on the lines of “Permamelt farming for dummies”. Or may be we even can grow cray-fish in those siberean melt ponds and built seven star luxury resorts to perpetuate eternal growth economics based on an entirely new shell-string monetary systems?

    And it is only a couple of centuries of hard labor and violent feedbacks before the clathrate gas chamber starts to warm up for our descendants and bring lucrative crocodile hunting to arctic peoples new Empire.
    Seriously, population reduction culture and prudent family planing should enter mainstream discussion. It is ofcourse one of many ecological disaster culprits. How long can the growth illusion based on “american dream” be sustained. It is already too late for a comfy retooloing and adaptation to new modes of civilization. Uncomfortable but meaningful downscaling has already begun. But powers that be are being dragged into it unvolantarily, kicking and screaming.
    Let’s take solace in the fact that lemming and mice populations shrink automatically when food is scarce. Female education vs birthrate quotient should influence public education budgets. And judging by millitary spending our corporate overlords seem not amused by a volantary population reduction scenarios.
    The Game Is Over. Long Live The Game !

  12. _Flin_ says:

    Big Oil’s comment: This is great news, now we can pump additional oil.

  13. NeilT says:

    Everyone is now used to shocking summer figures. It’s old hat.

    However the next stunner is going to be Nov/Dec. When the ice fails to recover even in winter and winter becomes Feb/Apr then we will really start to see acceleration in the spiral.

    I expect, this year, that the re-growth will be slower and that the overall extent will be low until March.

    But that’s just me theorising.

  14. john atcheson says:

    It would be interesting to compile forecasts — beginning with the first IPCC and compare them to actual results for things like ice extent and volume, frequency of intense storms, temperatures, and seasonal shifts.

    The real story here is that even in worst case scenarios, we have been grossly underestimating the speed and scale of the consequences of climate change.